Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy.

Beardsley has covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections as well as the Arab Spring in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. She reported on the riots in French suburbs in 2005 and the massive student demonstrations in 2006. Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race and been back to her old stomping ground — Kosovo — to report for NPR on three separate occasions.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC and as a staff assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond.

Reporting from France for Beardsley is the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the French language and culture. At the age of 10 she began learning French by reading the Asterix The Gaul comic book series with her father.

While she came to the field of radio journalism relatively late in her career, Beardsley says her varied background, studies and travels prepared her for the job as well as any journalism school. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them that exist in America," she says. "Sometimes it's fun to dispel the false notions and show a different side of the French. And sometimes the old stereotypes do hold up. But whether Americans love or hate France and the French, they're always interested!"

A native of South Carolina, Beardsley has a Bachelor of Arts in European history and French from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a Masters Degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina.

Beardsley is interested in politics, travel and observing foreign cultures. Her favorite cities are Paris and Istanbul.

Rabbi Michel Serfaty drives to his first appointment of the day, in a suburb south of Paris, just a couple miles from the notorious housing project where gunman Amedy Coulibaly grew up.

Coulibaly is the self-proclaimed Islamist radical who killed a police officer and later four people in a Kosher market in Paris terrorist attacks in January.

France has Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish communities. For the last decade Serfaty and his team have been working in bleak places like this, trying to promote understanding between the two populations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said this morning on French radio that if separatist troops advanced on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, that would constitute a new red line.

"I told my counterpart Sergei Lavrov that such a move would mean Russia wants to make a link with Crimea, and that would change everything," said Fabius.

Then he stated that Europe would have to look at slapping new sanctions on Russia.

Like most bookshops around Paris, Emile, which caters to young readers, sold all its copies of Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance on Jan. 8, the day after two gunmen stormed into satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killing eight journalists.

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks that took the lives of 20 people, Voltaire's manifesto in favor of religious tolerance — written in 1763 — is flying off the shelves.

Emile employee Laurianne Ledus says she was surprised that an 18th-century manuscript could become a bestseller today.

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When terrorists attacked a satirical magazine in Paris last month, killing eight journalists, millions took to the streets in support of free speech. They waved pencils and carried signs in solidarity with the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

But in the weeks since those attacks, scores have also been arrested for condoning terrorism and inciting racial and religious hatred. Many now wonder if the government's crackdown on hate speech is compromising free speech.

Russia's worsening economy is having an impact far beyond its borders — even affecting Alpine ski resorts where Russians once flocked.

For the past decade, they've come in large numbers to ski the fabled Alpine slopes around Mont Blanc. But the drop in the ruble is now keeping them away. And that's having an effect on the wintertime economy in the region.

"Making aliyah," or returning to Israel, is usually a cause for celebration among Jews. But recently fear has pushed many Jews to leave France — a record 7,000 departed last year.

And that was before the recent Paris attacks that included the killing of four Jews at a kosher grocery store.

Jean Marc Illouz, a former senior correspondent for French television, who is also Jewish, says he's been pushing back against what he calls ridiculous comments on the Internet about anti-Semitism in France. He says Americans seem to think it's a resurgence of Nazism.

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Last week's shootings in Paris shocked the French. Many received another jolt when they learned that some Muslim students refused to join in the minute of national silence observed across the country following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The newspaper Le Figaro quoted one teacher in a heavily Muslim neighborhood in the eastern city of Strasbourg as saying that 80 percent of her students did not participate.

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French police are still searching for the gunmen who killed 12 people in Wednesday's attack on the Charlie Ebdo publication in Paris. They also investigated what appears to have been a second attack on Thursday, in which two police officers were shot — one fatally.

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Last month at a meeting of the far-right National Front in the French city of Lyon, there was a special guest: Andrey Isayev, a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's political party.

The apparent contradiction of political philosophies didn't seem to dampen the crowd's enthusiasm for Isayev's message: Long live Franco-Russian friendship, and down with the European Union! Isayev called the EU a "spineless lackey of the United States."

Parisians are going gaga over An American in Paris, the first-ever stage production of the 1951 Hollywood film starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and with a musical score by George Gershwin.

The performance at Paris' Chatelet theater is getting rave reviews and has completely sold out. It's not hard to see why: The stage comes alive with the story of an American artist and the young French dancer he falls in love with. It's filled with fabulous dancing and all those great Gershwin tunes.

In separate recording studios and separate songs, two groups of international stars have harnessed the power of their voices to help raise awareness of Ebola.

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For an American, watching a Sinterklaas parade, like the one I recently went to in Amsterdam, can be a bit of a shock. Because dancing around the dear old Dutch Santa are his helpers, known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.

And Black Pete is played by scores of white people dressed up in black face ... and wearing Afro wigs.

In the past few years, Black Pete has come under fire. A beloved tradition for some, others say he is a racist stereotype. And the increasingly rancorous debate over Black Pete has gripped the Netherlands.

Once known for lace-making, tourism, and being the closest French port to England, Calais has now come to represent a focal point of illegal immigration.

Hundreds of migrants roam the town by day. At night they sleep in squalid tent cities, their clothing hanging on fences and from the trees. The migrants have fled war, poverty and dictatorship, in places like Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan. They've traveled over desert and sea, on journeys that often take years.

Now, they're trying to get the last 30 miles to England.

Caroline De Haas has had enough. The French feminist, 34, became so fed up with sexism in the country that she's launched a website to fight it.

Tapping on her keyboard, De Haas brings up the new site, Macholand.fr. On the screen are several "actions" targeted at sexist politicians or advertisers who have crossed the line.

During my recent reporting trip to cover the Ukrainian conflict in the eastern city of Donetsk, I stayed at one of the city's last functioning hotels. It also happens to be the unofficial separatist headquarters, affording me a close-up glimpse of the leaders of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.

This is the name the separatists have given to this part of eastern Ukraine they want to become independent.

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Music resounds through the hallways to signal the end of class at Kiev's Lyceum for the Humanities, one of the Ukrainian capital's top public high schools.

Lively students dressed in dark blue school uniforms pour into the stairwells as they make their way to the next class. Once they're seated at their desks, their teacher explains that today a foreign journalist has come to meet them.

A cease-fire in eastern Ukraine appears to be collapsing, with both the Ukrainian government and separatist forces accusing each other of violating it. That won't come as a surprise to the people of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, who are deeply skeptical.

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